Skip The Steak

Yes, You Can Eat Vegetarian at Cleburne Cafeteria

A handy guide to the other side of this Houston institution.

By Joanna O'Leary January 21, 2019

Chicken fried what now? Plenty of vegetarian options await at Cleburne Cafeteria.

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, Cleburne Cafeteria managed to reopen (again) following (yet another) devastating fire.

Although I wouldn’t say I was a “regular” at Cleburne, I was happy to see this beloved institution bounce back. I recently made a very belated visit to check out the new digs and try some of its oldie-but-goodie menu items, but with one limitation. In keeping with one of my New Year’s resolutions to eschew meat one day a week, I decided to construct my meal solely from Cleburne’s vegetarian comestibles.

Easier said than done? Despite being sorely tempted by the platters of glistening chicken fried chicken and sanguine slices of roast beef, I was able to assemble a mini-buffet for myself. 

First, I loaded up my tray with a few sample samples of Cleburne’s 10 different salads. Standouts included mildly sweet, sunny orange, shredded carrot salad dotted with swollen raisins and small chunks of pineapple; and the piquant kale, lima bean, and dried cranberry salad dressed in lemon and olive oil. Although I leaned toward ordering a bowl of the regular coleslaw, I’m glad I opted for Cleburne’s “German” version, which relied less on mayo and more on pepper and vinegar to give rise to a lighter, tangier taste.

I was less enthusiastic about Cleburne’s macaroni and cheese, under-seasoned and monotone in flavor and texture, but was pleasantly surprised by the softball scoop of squash casserole, thick with mashed crookneck squash, buttery breadcrumbs and corn niblets.

Despite the sad mac 'n' cheese, these delightfully botanical side dishes left me just as satisfied as if I had indulged in animal proteins.

My reward for eating clean(ish) at Cleburne? A ginormous slice of its lemon layer cake, also—natch—vegetarian. 

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